17 Years, and 88 Days

17 Years, and 88 Days

It’s taken me some months to write this. The title denotes the length of time I’ve estimated it’s taken to complete my dissertation, from the first day of classes to my dissertation defense. Truth be told, I am still formatting, editing – but I am over the big hump and plan to graduate in May.

This was such a source of embarrassment, for a long time. This dissertation, if it were a person, is older than my actual child!  I completed my Master’s degree in exactly 1 calendar year – I knew how to do this school thing.  And, then, I just didn’t.

I could give you a whole lot of excuses about why it took so long.  New marriage, then divorce; having an infant, toddler, and now teenager; starting and expanding a business; losing my mother; living through a pandemic.

The honest truth is – it just wasn’t my time.   It WAS, however, a period during which I tried to learn patience, perseverance, and asking for any and all help.

I write this to share with anyone who is completing a degree, starting a business, looking for a job – sometimes you have to sit in the winter phase of the year. Stay focused. Do what you can (even if it feels like the smallest of efforts) to move forward. Rest. 

Delayed is not denied – not if you don’t allow it to be.

Signed, Janine Hill, PhD 

A Note to Potential DEI clients

A Note to Potential DEI clients

Dear Potential DEI client,

Thanks for reaching out. I am usually much more prompt in my reply – this week has really thrown me for a tizzy.  Well, let me be honest — I don’t feel any worse than I felt when I found out the police officer/killer of Michael Brown was not going to be charged and prosecuted, or Tamir Rice was shot, or when I found out Sandra Bland was dead in her cell. I do, however, feel like I can mourn the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor (who would have been 27 today), and George Floyd more publicly this week.

I apologize for not responding to your email, but I have spent the week walking for miles,  sleeping late and taking a lot of naps, watching the memorial service, and vacillating between being very sad and very angry.

It’s an interesting conundrum I find myself in – I have marketed myself as a “DEI consultant, with a particular focus on racial equity”, but just at the time I am most in demand, with people and organizations like yours reaching out this week to inquire about my services, I feel the most unable to be productive, or to want to discuss these topics outside of my close friends and family.

I am doing a lot of soul searching, meaning-making, and feeling – as I know you are. And I realize I have to take care of myself personally, before I can even think about what this may mean for my racial equity work, and my firm. I know that I will have to really review and revamp my offerings – and think about what REALLY makes change inside social good organizations. But, first, I have to be still.

While I think and plan, I am in the midst of formulating some new questions and principles to share with any new DEI client, and wanted to test them with you:


  1. I have read a number of organizational statements, and been mostly unimpressed and unmoved. Ben and Jerry’s is now my new standard for statements to address the current climate.  Can I see yours? What actions are you taking to support racial equity? What does your leadership team and Board of Directors look like? How do you operationalize racial equity in your policies and programs?  What donations are you making to organizations making a difference? How are you supporting communities you serve?
  2. What did you do, specifically, to support your black staff members this week, and what will you continue to do moving forward? Every single one of them is struggling, even if you don’t see it.
  3. If your leadership team leaves something to be desired in terms of the promotion and retention of black people (as many of your organizations do) – what’s your commitment in the next 6 months to a year to improve representation?
  4. What is your PERSONAL commitment to racial equity? And I don’t mean attending every protest and rally, posting a black square on your Facebook page, and sending a text to your black friend to ask how they are doing.   Who are your friends? Your health care providers? What organizations do you support? Do you subscribe to the “all lives matter” rhetoric?


  1. I will no longer take on projects that only involve racial equity/DEI training of Board or staff. It feels like I am being part of the problem then – I am making people feel that they are moving work forward, when in reality they are only setting one part of the foundation in which real work can occur. I will, of course, do trainings within a larger scope of work – and I fully plan to use terms like “white dominant culture” and “white supremacy” in my sessions.
  2. If I think you are not fully committed to increasing the representation of black people in your leadership teams – and to think long and hard and implement policies to improve recruitment and retention of the same – then I respectfully decline to work with your organization.
  3. I need to get to know you as a person, and to understand your lived experiences, intent and desired impact – this work requires so much emotional labor from me, and I need to understand where you are coming from, as colleagues and as humans.

I understand these questions and principles may turn some of you off, and I think you should know where I stand before you hire me. I want you to understand that I am vetting you, as well.


Thanks for your interest,  Janine

What a Car Accident Taught Me about Running My Business in 2020

What a Car Accident Taught Me about Running My Business in 2020

On the afternoon of December 20, 2019, I was feeling good. I had just finished facilitating my last meeting of the year, and was driving home to surprise my daughter and pick her up from school.  Coming from downtown Chicago, I was getting off the highway – another driver was getting off the highway behind me, and tried to cut over to another lane a bit too close…and there went my bumper (see the picture above).

I’m always trying to make meaning of things, and so, in that optimistic spirit, here’s what I learned from the experience – that I have framed as astute business strategies:

1.      It’s most important to do the right thing, in the difficult times.

It was a new, young driver that hit me—and he looked a bit shell-shocked. We pulled over to the side of the road, and he came up to my window, saying “I am so sorry”. My response was “Are you ok?” I did not yell, or show my annoyance (mostly) –even in that moment, I tried to focus on the important thing – us not being injured. In my business, in any business, you are tempted, particularly when you are stressed and tired, to make shortcuts, and to focus on those things that may be urgent, but not important (thanks Stephen Covey!). When I am stressed, I try to slow down to make decisions, and to realize there are few shortcuts in making things right. 

Side note: last year (same day, in a weird twist of fate) I rear-ended someone, so I know what it feels like to be on the other side, and to negatively change someone’s day. They treated me with respect, too, so I had that in mind as I tried to pay that grace forward. 

2.      Keep your smile and sense of humor.

Shortly after the accident, the local police department drove up and took our contact information. I was pretty close to home, in a community I have lived in the majority of my life, so of course at least 3 people I knew saw me on the side of the road and pulled over and called to be sure I was okay.  My mom’s best friend was heading in the other direction and saw me on the side of the road talking to the police and called – when she was teased about not stopping to check on me, she said, “I knew she was okay, because I saw her smiling and laughing on the sidewalk.” This smile and sense of humor has gotten me through some difficult projects, some late nights, and some conversations—and, I think, make me an enjoyable coach and consultant to clients. 

3.      The most important value I have in the marketplace is my time and ability to connect with people.

After I got the repair quote (about 30 minutes after the accident), I shared it with the parent of the driver (who had also come to the accident site and apologized)—and, about 2 hours later, they had paid me the entire amount of the quote (hard to believe, I know). When I met him at a café to get the funds, we ended up sitting and talking for about 20 minutes about being a parent, and our joint experience in being college professors.  He also brought some Japanese Kit Kats, he said, for my daughter. As I chuckled about our conversation later, I realized what a gift it is to be able to build rapport quickly. If I had to note only one skill or trait that has helped me build a successful business – it is this one.

My bumper is now fixed – if I had not shared this story with you, you would not notice anything had happened as I tool around town. But the lessons remain…happy 2020!

PS: I will not be tempting the hands of fate and driving anywhere the Friday before the holiday break in 2020. 😊


Ten connections a day on LinkedIn, with little effort!

Ten connections a day on LinkedIn, with little effort!

We never know where our next job, consulting opportunity, or awareness-building opportunity will come from, and thus it is important to reach out and have as many people know us and what we do professionally as possible.

In my opinion, LinkedIn is underutilized as a networking platform. I’ve met many people that I would have never come into contact with otherwise—and those connections have resulted in speaking engagements, finding new coaching clients, and me providing advice and business to others.

In one year, from 11/27/17 to 11/27/18, I went from 1,521 to 5,272 connections – an increase of 3,751 connections (averaging over 10 new connections a day) –  WITHOUT spending hours each week on the platform, and while being quite thoughtful about who I am connecting to, and why.

How did I do it?  Here’s several tips, if you’d also like to increase your connections, with little effort.

1.      Track your connection numbers, so you can see your progress. I can tell you how many connections I had on 11/27/17 not because I am a numbers whiz, but because I have a spreadsheet, with dates and connection totals listed. I have a goal of 10 -15 new connections a day.

2.      Use the algorithms LinkedIn uses to suggest connections to your advantage.  Spend some time looking at the “people you may know” section – and seek to connect if any of those people look interesting to you. LinkedIn suggests them because you already have a series of connections in common.

3.      Every so often, if I want a burst of new connections, you can go to the “Add contacts” section on LinkedIn.  LinkedIn has figured out who are in your Contacts, that you haven’t yet connected with on LinkedIn, and suggest them to you.

4.      If you don’t already have the LinkedIn app on your mobile phone, do yourself a favor and download it today. I find myself looking for new connections while waiting at the post office, coffee shops…you get the picture.  It makes me feel quite efficient to get my java boost and gain new connections at the same time! 

Here’s my number #1 tip…

ALWAYS, whenever you meet someone new at an event, before you go to sleep that night, search them out and seek to connect on LinkedIn.   I do this religiously, when I present in front of a new group at a retreat, on a panel, or sit next to someone cool at a table at a luncheon—I want to connect before the resonance built in that interaction fades.  Tip #4 makes this easier.

Next year, my goal is 5,000 new connections.  I will report back in late November, 2019!

I have so many more thoughts and tips about LinkedIn, that I share with my career coaching clients –  if you are ready to take your networking to another level, please reach out to me via Inmail to chat about your goals and how I can help you get there. I have a couple of remaining coaching slots for December. 

In this season of giving, give to YOURSELF FIRST!  Prepare your network now, for your new opportunities in 2019!

What are your tips for increasing meaningful LinkedIn connections?

The Year of “No”

The Year of “No”

Happy Black History Month!

The other day, while driving home, I found myself thinking about Shonda Rhimes’ book “Year of Yes”. At the end of another long day,  I fantasized about creating my own “Year of No”.

Like everyone else, I have long forgotten my laundry list of New Year’s resolutions, as I type this blog post in early February. But one sticks out, and maybe will be a good transitory mantra to my Year of  No—I will try to say either “Hell Yes!” or “No” to any request in 2018.  No more lukewarm, “I think I can do that”, “it will only be a short-term project”, or “it’s just easier if I go ahead and take that assignment” responses. I’ve realized that those responses don’t make me happy, and don’t allow me to bring my best efforts anywhere.   I’ve brought this harsh, but clarifying criterion up in a number of my coaching conversations in January, and I now share it with you!

What would you say “no” to, if you could, today?

Here’s what I will be saying “no” to, for starters:

  • Leading another committee, or engaging in committees that I don’t feel like need my unique contribution;
  • Packing my days too tight with calls and meetings;
  • Packing my daughter’s extracurricular activities too tight (most evenings, if I don’t have an engagement, she does, and I’m driving her around

And, since I hate hearing the word “no” to any of my requests, and least of all saying the word to myself (hello cake!) here’s what I will be saying “yes” to, instead:

  • More space to plan, write, and think;
  • More exercise (I started yesterday—did 50 minutes on the elliptical);
  • More clients, and more ways to serve them (I’m planning a VIP day outline and a retreat in June, Inmail me for more details!);
  • More planning of meals, especially dinners (I can’t keep up this pace of eating out);
  • More time to rest and sit on my couch;
  • More time for family and friends.

What will you say “Hell, yes!” to, or “No” to? Please make a comment below.

Janine Hill is a career coach, consultant, and instructor, working to support those in the social good sector navigate career transitions, have their voices be heard, and be their authentic selves in the workplace. E-mail her if you’d like to schedule a 30 minute chat to learn about how she can support your goals!

Soar Strategies and airplane flying

Soar Strategies and airplane flying

After a fair amount of “name paralysis”, I decided to incorporate my new career coaching and consulting business as Soar Strategies, Inc. in early July. 

However, it wasn’t until I flew for the first time, post-incorporation, that my name choice was validated by the universe.

I was traveling to Portland, Oregon from Chicago, as I serve as the patient representative for the Women’s Preventive Services Committee, a national group that makes clinical guideline recommendations to the federal Health Resources and Services Administration on various women’s health topics.  On the return flight home, I thought about how the name really reflects my approach to coaching:

1.      To achieve “lift”, the engines are working at their top power—it is not easy. This is my job as a coach, as I see it—to assist in providing that “lift” for clients. Of course, the client is the “player”, the lift and the engine, but with my questions, support, and (sometimes) challenging, I can provide an extra boost. It is not easy to change your career trajectory, and to do things differently…but I was amazed in that if I looked out the window 2 minutes from takeoff, I couldn’t believe how high the plane had gotten. That’s what happens with good coaching, also. 

2.      Because I had neglected to make my flight reservations in a timely manner, I was granted with a seat in the very last row, in the middle.  I was seated next to two men, with much longer legs than mine. It builds intimacy quickly, when someone’s appendages are in your designated “space”. Coaching is ultimately the building of a relationship, but clients are entrusting us with their dreams, hopes, fears, and challenges usually from the first session—so we have to create that environment of trust, a safe space, and rapport early.

3.      Sometimes, in the midst of the coaching experience, you experience a sense of wonder. In the row in front of me, I watched a toddler laugh joyfully as he played with his parents, and it was contagious—he made me smile, too. In coaching, we are privileged to have a front row to clients’ transformation, which is really wondrous, also. He cried a little bit, too, but what I most remember is the laughter.

I thought I would end this article here on a high note, but things are never that simple.

4.      Halfway through the flight, we experienced a fair bit of turbulence. After I mentally went through a mini-gratitude review (I was glad my daughter was not on the plane with me; glad that I ate pizza more than 3 hours prior, etc.), the pilot spoke on the intercom and apologized for the bumpiness, but noted that for those on the left side of the aircraft, there was an “electric thunderstorm” below us and that it was one of the beautiful sights he gets to see from time to time from the air. I thought this was a great metaphor for the “hard times” of coaching. Sometimes we say something that doesn’t quite resonate with the client, or don’t get a quick resolve to a big problem in an hour-long session. Our jobs are to call out and wade with our clients through the “messiness”, and, it is beautiful.

Let me help you soar (sorry, I couldn’t resist!).

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